Popping the Beacon Bubble: Mark Leibovich’s Take on the Polarized Electorate

By Sofia Aslan

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On Monday, November 1st, New York Times Magazine’s Chief National Correspondent Mark Leibovich gave a talk at Beacon about his experience as a political journalist covering this past election season. During an unprecedented and consequential election, he provided insight into the campaigns of both candidates, and analyzed the political divides of our country. A seasoned reporter, he remarked that he had never experienced anything like this–having two candidates whose followers are diametrically opposed.

Leibovich, in his own words, described how the Democratic and Republican parties are each “in their own bubble” and noted “how little these two bubbles actually seem to be touching.” Beacon can be seen as existing in a similar “bubble,” with little variation in the student body’s political views, as was made evident by the widespread heartbreak and utter shock that followed Clinton’s defeat and Trump’s victory on election night.

However, hearing about Mr. Leibovich’s personal encounters with both candidates provided a deeper understanding of them that cannot be gained from our normal history classes. Mr. Miller explained that “since we go to a school where there aren’t a lot of Trump supporters, Beacon is one big bubble of the kind of bubbles [Leibovich] was talking about. I think he was able to help get students to understand how it is that Trump could be so wildly popular in some segments.”

Mr. Leibovich’s anecdotes did indeed help to humanize both candidates. He called Trump a “hospitality guy,” while referring to Clinton as “funny” and “more thoughtful and interesting.” Mr. Miller remarks that by “the number of hands consistently up in the air” during Leibovich’s talk, it was evident that “students are hungry for the kind of information and anecdotes that [Leibovich] can provide that even their history teachers can’t always answer in the same kind of way.”

As a result, Beacon students had the privilege of meeting an outsider to try to explain the success of a Trump presidential campaign in a city where the thought of a Trump presidency had been mocked and dismissed.  Leibovich worked to pop the bubble that we, as Beacon students, choose to live in.

Additionally, Mr. Leibovich spoke about the issue of people relying on biased news sources, and how it played a monumental role in this year’s election. Media outlets have been grappling with how to portray the controversial and problematic claims Trump has made. These claims are–at least in our Beacon mindset–undeniably racist, sexist, xenophobic, and homophobic, which can make it difficult for the media to give both candidates equal and unbiased coverage.

Mr. Leibovich responded to this issue by asking, “How are you supposed to be unbiased about something that’s objectively racist?” In working for the New York Times, he plays a part in our perception of the election. When asked if he thought if it was important to present both sides of the election to media audiences, he responded that “our readers are our readers.” He explains that people interested in a liberal standpoint will turn to his news outlet, and if they are not interested, then they will seek other outlets where their views are being voiced.

As Beacon students, it is important to recognize biases in the media and in our classes. This was a challenge that the history department at Beacon recognized and attempted to address. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Anderson created a class on media bias and the dangers of an uninformed electorate that they taught during the Pre-Election, mixed grade symposium in late October. Mr. Anderson explained that “ultimately, the goal was to get students out of the mindset that they tend to be in, especially here at Beacon, which is more of a liberal mindset, and to present different perspectives of voters across the country.”

 Likewise, Mr. Leibovich presented a new way of looking at this election that will help our future discussions at Beacon. He ended his talk by saying that it would be a “a hard road for whoever wins.” Not only will it be a hard road for our new President Trump, but it will also be a hard road for Beacon students as they may be increasingly exposed to the mindset of his supporters.

It is more important now than ever to recognize the bubble that we live in, and to look beyond it.  We may not have elected Trump, but many Americans did, and we must seek to understand their perspectives rather than shun them. Let this be a lesson that New York City, and particularly Beacon, does not represent the views of the entire country. As a community, it is our responsibility to continue the fight for equality and progressive ideals throughout Trump’s presidency, but also to get beyond the bubble that made his election so shocking in the first place.

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